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Thread: A cigar storage primer

  1. #1
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    Default A cigar storage primer

    © 2012. Permission to quote or reproduce required. Send PM.

    What follows is my opinion only. Your mileage may vary (YMMV).

    Summary
    1. Keep cigars in cello, mostly.
    2. Keep cigars in boxes, mostly.
    3. Rest your cigars for a year, mostly. Age some for longer.
    4. Use a cooler, mostly.
    5. Use active humidification with loose cigars without cello, mostly.
    6. Use beads, mostly.
    7. Fill open air space.
    8. Retire the hygrometer, mostly.

    1. Cello
    Cello does four things:
    i. Cello protects the cigar from the inevitable damage from handling;
    ii. Cello reduces storage requirements, as cello resists changes in relative humidity (RH), and, if undisturbed, then cello will aid in insulating the cigar from temperature changes;
    iii. Cello preserves the cigar; cello minimizes sharing of tastes between cigars (“yellow cello”), and slows aging; and
    iv. Cello provides a convenient place for labels.

    Take the cello off when storing the cigars in a box to age, and when the box is relatively air-resistant, and when one wants all the cigars in that box to have a consistent taste.

    2. Boxes (that cigars come in)
    Leaving a box unopened and untouched maximizes the resale value of the box, and offers the slowest aging. However, I’ve had a few non-Cuban boxes recently that weren’t fully aired out after they were made – so inside, the boxes smelled like wood glue. Thus, I open boxes. (I used other boxes to hold those cigars).

    The box’s first purpose is usually to help sell the cigar. When aging with cello off, try not to use paper boxes or cartons, or paper-covered boxes (e.g., Cuban ‘dress’ boxes), or boxes with air gaps (e.g., Padron ‘000). There are other types of boxes that are better for aging.

    Fully-varnished/fully-painted boxes usually offer the slowest aging/most protection. Boxes with lips generally seal better than boxes that don’t have a lipped rim.


    Good for aging: slide-lid cabinet and fully-varnished box

    3. Rest and aging
    The reasons to store cigars are rest and aging. Unless smoked soon after rolling, most cigars will benefit from a year or so of rest after rolling. Of course, tastes and time from rolling vary, so perhaps try a cigar three or so weeks after purchase. The manufacturer may have rested the cigars for a while before boxing, but the length of time can vary. For example, Fuente sits on rolled Opus and Añejo for one year before packing, but Hemingways get six months (from a CA interview, IIRC).

    After this year or so of rest, there will be many cigars that smoke just fine. However, some cigars will benefit greatly from further aging. There are many theories on aging, but the slower the better, although faster can be pretty good. The speed is affected by air circulation – you can buy racks that hold (un-cello’d) cigars like wine bottles in a wine cooler for, one suspects, the fastest aging.

    If the box is fully painted or varnished and has a tight seal, then the aging will be very slow, at similar rates to cigars in factory cello. In the wild guess department, if there is no cello, and the cigars are in a partially-finished or unfinished box, then aging could happen twice as fast. Perhaps twice as fast again in boxes with air gaps like Cuban “dress boxes.” For example, three years in a dress box could be equivalent to about five years in a slide-lid box, or eight to ten years in a fully-varnished box.

    See Min Ron Nee for recommendations for aging Cuban cigars. I believe he says that the best settings for aging are 55 to 65 degrees F, 60% to 65% RH; that RH over 70 results in lower-quality aging; and for smoking, 72% RH minus 1% RH for each five years of age is the best taste-wise. YMMV.


    Min Ron Nee

    My experiences with aging have been primarily with Padron and Cuban Bolivar, Montecristo, Partagas, Por Larranaga, and Quintero cigars. For the Havanas:
    • Up to around one year from box age – Resting. Some like the ‘punch’ at this age.
    • Around one year to around 1.5 – 2.5 years – a nice cigar
    • After that up until about 3 years (Monte, PL) or 5 years (Boli, Party, Quint) – the first ‘sick period.’ Forget it. Good but muted near the end of this period.
    • About three to five years or about five to eight years – what cigar smoking is all about.
    • After that – another sick period starts.
    Padron (with cello removed) seems similar except the cigars are fine out-of-the-box, and the first sick period is between about three and five years – not really ‘sick,’ as they’re still okay, but they tasted better before, and will taste even better later.

    4. Purpose of a humidor
    To keep cigars at a constant temperature and moisture level (1), i.e., insulation, air-tightness, and humidity control.

    That’s all one has to worry about unless one has loose cigars without cello. Fill a cooler with boxes (even empty ones, there should minimal open air in a humidor), buy a half-pound of beads, fill a few thin ‘socklets’ or ‘knee-highs,’ aquarium bags, etc. with the beads, and spray them with distilled water – too little is better than too much. Arrange the bead bags mostly at the top, add a layer of closed-foam tape as a gasket for the lid if needed, and you’re done. That is state-of-the-art in passive humidification / temperature control, and works just fine in almost all cases.


    Coolerdor

    If the ambient (room) temperature is constant, then one doesn’t have to worry about insulation. The container can be a Zip-lock freezer bag or a Mason jar. Any reasonably-sealing container will work, from an eBay special to a 10,000-Euro box. Just keep the air space to a minimum, the temperature constant, away from sunlight, and add beads (not needed in Mason jars).

    (1) Note: A cigar’s ‘moisture level’ is not the same as relative humidity (RH). Cigars should be moist – about 11% to 13% water by mass. Unfortunately, there is no usable, reasonably accurate, consistent, inexpensive, and non-destructive way to measure a cigar’s moisture level – unless how much the cigar is supposed to weigh is known. Thus, RH is used as a proxy. RH is not the same thing as moisture level, but there is more-or-less a direct relationship. The key difference only matters when the cigar is not in cello:
    a) Above 65% RH. The wrapper acts like an imperfect moisture barrier. Moisture enters the filler/binder mostly via the foot of the cigar. If the filler/binder is less moist than the humidor’s RH, then the filler/binder moisture goes up by the equivalent of 1% RH per week. Filler/binder humidification like this can be uneven, and another month may be needed to evenly distribute the moisture within the cigar.
    b) Below 65% RH. The wrapper allows moisture to pass to/from the filler/binder. RH is gained and lost relatively quickly – unless the cigar is in a box or in cello.
    Cello is an excellent moisture barrier. Yes, it breathes. But very, very, very, very slowly. So it protects. Leave cigars in cello unless you have boxes.

    5. The other purpose of a humidor
    To quickly recover from changes in temperature and RH.

    Quick recovery is only needed when there are loose cigars that are not in cello. If there are a few such cigars, then put them in an old box, and skip to the next section. If not, then consider the worst possible type of humidor, a glass display model. This ’75-count’ humidor has about 40 cigars and 20 (in cello) cigarillos, and is opened every few days to 37% RH in winter, and 90% RH in summer.


    Display humidor (beads and cedar sheets not shown)

    In winter, once the humidor is opened, everything in the humidor will start to release moisture: unfinished wood, beads, and the forty cigars without cello.

    As an aside, this is where ‘gel bead’ polyacrylics and sponge (Credo) humidifiers can be faster than beads – they can release more moisture than beads for the same weight. Cedar sheets – the ones used between layers of cigars in many boxes – are also a fast-releasing moisture source. As needed, one can also use/add gel bead (water pillows), and/or more beads, and/or active humidification.

    Active humidification, e.g., Cigar Oasis, Hydra, etc., and/or fans are the best solutions to quickly recover from loss of moisture in a humidor. If active humidification or temperature control is needed, then add them. They work … but sometimes not well enough. For example, Hydra’s have a default of 70% RH after a power outage. I want 65% RH to be the default. Thus, I calibrate the Hydra so it reads 70% when the actual RH is 65%.


    Hydra at 65% RH

    Get active humidification and/or fans only if there are a lot of loose cigars that aren’t in cello, in a humidor that is regularly opened, or the humidor has a lot of airspace – for example, a display humidor or walk-in. On the other hand, beads (or cedar/mahogany) will still be required to absorb moisture.

  2. #2
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    6. Beads
    ‘Beads’ usually refer to beads made from ‘Silica gel’ (and made by Fuji Silya). ‘Gel beads’ are typically poly-acrylics, not silica. Both beads are white when dry, and clear-ish when wet. ‘Gel beads’ can change shape and be squishy; Silica beads are spherical, hard, and do not change shape.

    If a humidor is regularly opened in only a dry room, then ‘gel beads’ will probably work better than Silica beads. Gel beads are least expensive at the local garden centre – gardeners mix the gel beads with soil to increase the soil’s water retention ability. However, craft stores sell smaller quantities. (Craft stores also sell old-school green sponge, used with 70% RH-achieving PG solution.)

    However, if excess room humidity is also an issue, or if one doesn’t like to fiddle, then Silica beads are the way to go. ‘Gel beads’ do not absorb moisture very well, and PG solution sponges absorb moisture relatively slowly, and only at 70% RH. Beads work better at picking up moisture. (Due to the moisture barrier properties of cigar wrapper above 65% RH, short-term excess humidity is less of an issue than dry air.)

    The best silica beads for humidor use have some Lithium Chloride (IIRC) added and are sold under the trade name “ArtSorb.” This makes the beads faster in releasing/gaining moisture in the RH range that we are interested in. However, other than that, regular Silica beads, for example, various unscented 100% Silica ‘crystal’ kitty litters, can work pretty well – but over twice as much kitty litter is needed, and kitty litter has to be ‘trained’ to the RH desired. (Do not use blue-indicating kitty litter, just the white/clear kind.)

    Silica beads can be trained/re-trained to work at a particular RH, as follows:
    1. Spread the beads in thin layers on shallow pans or screens. Dry the beads at 120 degrees C (about 250 degrees F) for 12 hours or more.
    2. Place the hot beads in sealed metal airtight containers until cool.
    3. Spread the cooled beads back out in thin layers on shallow pans/screens.
    4. Place the pans/screens in an airtight container along with a Cigar Oasis or Hydra or similar set at the RH you want the beads to be at. Unlike regular use, do not spray the beads. Make sure the reservoir is full and the low-moisture alarm is on. Each kilogram of beads may absorb a cup of water or more (exact quantities depend on bead grade/type).
    5. Leave everything sealed for at least a week at the desired RH. (I left mine in for a month.)
    6. Load the trained beads into the tubes/socklets/hosiery/aquarium bags/etc. that you will be using. Beads work best up to three beads’ thickness, i.e., bags filled to a six by six bead cross-section. Store leftover trained beads in a humidor or a sealed container, e.g., Mason jars.
    (Reference for temps/times: Lafontaine, Raymond, “Silica Gel,” CCI Technical Bulletin 10, ISBN 0-662-53370-4, 1984)

    Two vendors that sell quality beads trained to appropriate RH’s are Heartfelt Industries and Cigarmony.

    Beads will last essentially forever unless the pores are clogged with contaminants like cigar oils (yellow beads), over-watered into breaking, etc.

    Bead sheets are beads flattened out and made into sheets, and covered on both sides with flocking-like material, so no bags/tubes are needed. Bead sheets offer space and material advantages in specific cases, e.g., in a portable humidor. However, bead sheet is more expensive than ‘good’ beads (by weight), which themselves are about ten times the cost of regular Silica beads (kitty litter).

    7. Air space
    In most cases, the less open air space there is, the better/faster the moisture will eventually be distributed within the humidor. Fill space. Add empty boxes – even use old tubes in small humidors.

    Sometimes there will just be a lot of air space in a humidor, for example, in a display humidor, or a walk-in humidor – or even in a cooler. In all cases, the solution is the same – fans. However, continuous circulation is not needed – the Oust intermittent fan was popular for coolers and wine-a-dors, but is no longer available.

    8. Hygrometers
    How many times do you open a humidor just to check the RH?

    If the answer is “rarely to never,” then use beads and don’t bother with a hygrometer. If the answer is not “rarely to never,” then for most, use beads and don’t bother with a hygrometer.

    If you use active humidification, then use remote hygrometers to help determine the best location for the humidifier, and to monitor the system.
    Craig
    Ahhhhhhhhhhh Cigar Jesus just wept - kevin7
    A cigar storage primer | Basic Cuban cigar info

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    Mr. Thorough at it again.

    "from an eBay special to a 10,000-Euro box."

    Sorry, I copied that without permmission
    The powers that be might take it all away
    Together we burn, together we burn away

    Uncle Tupelo

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    We need a sticky note..nice!






    http://www.cmt.com/videos/eric-churc...le-smoke.jhtml?

    "Do this...go to Google and type in "Dumbass that can't take a hint"...notice the picture of a big feller in his Moms kitchen with a can of Wannabe RockStar on his man boob...Hey, that's you!" TheGreekTitan





    May God grant us the wisdom to discover right, the will to


    choose it, and the strength


    to make it endure










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    It will always be a battle a day between those who want maximum change and those who want to maintain the status quo.
    ~ Gerry Adams

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    Very nice post. Thanks!


    Age Quod Agis

    1 Strike

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    Nice work Craig. If we make them stickies I hope you have all your guides saved to your computer... just in case we have the sticky meltdown again.
    Quote Originally Posted by badwhale View Post
    Buzz is smoking our cigars. This probably is his triumphant scam.

  9. #9

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    Thanks for the read Craig, great thread.

    I'm curious what everyone's thoughts are on vacuum sealing boxes for long term storage?

    With the thinking that the less oxygen that the cigars are exposed to the slower and better the cigars age, would this be the ideal route to go for those that are patient enough? I have read that Min Ron Nee does this to all his boxes.

    I don't have an opinion one way or the other, since I haven't aged cigars before. Just throwing it out there

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    I can see the logic. However, I'm not patient enough to wait decades.

  11. #11

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    That's a fair point, I'm not sure I am either. I'd probably be dead before my efforts were rewarded

  12. #12

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    really interesting read. im going to save this link and send people here whenever they ask me any questions. nice to have an official reference!

  13. #13

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    Thanks for all the info. This really came in handy, since I am putting together my own cooler.

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    Quote Originally Posted by FightingFish View Post
    Thanks for all the info. This really came in handy, since I am putting together my own cooler.
    http://www.cigarsmokers.com/threads/...ng-a-Coolerdor
    Craig
    Ahhhhhhhhhhh Cigar Jesus just wept - kevin7
    A cigar storage primer | Basic Cuban cigar info

  15. #15

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    Thanks! Need to get some beads and I'll be all set. Going to stop by the largest cigar store in Ohio this weekend. Maybe they'll have some!?

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    Quote Originally Posted by FightingFish View Post
    Thanks! Need to get some beads and I'll be all set. Going to stop by the largest cigar store in Ohio this weekend. Maybe they'll have some!?
    They will have beads, but not Heartfelt. Do yourself a favor and get the real thing. Some of the other beads do not absorb humidity.
    http://www.heartfeltindustries.com/default.asp
    It will always be a battle a day between those who want maximum change and those who want to maintain the status quo.
    ~ Gerry Adams

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    Thank you. A lot of good info here.

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